All posts by Sara

The 20 Best Movies of 2020

Back in the fall, we were so uncertainly about the prospects of discussing the best movies of 2020 in a timely fashion that we decided to call it early and do a best-movies-of-the-year podcast in September. Who knew when anything would get back to normal, if ever? As it turns out, we’re well into 2021 and things still haven’t gotten back to normal (and no amount of pushing the Oscars into April has changed that). But something that stayed the same, albeit in weird and different shapes, were movies, in that there were good movies all through 2020, and in a hell year–hell, a hell-year-plus–that’s still worth talking about. So here we are, talking about the best movies of 2020 again; this time in writing, though a podcast will soon follow, too. And if we (I, Jesse) didn’t get this up until March, well, we’re still having the conversation earlier than the Oscars. That’s gotta count for something, right? Maybe in a few months, you can even start to think about how you might see revivals of these movies out in the real world again. The best movies of 2020 are here for you well into 2021 and beyond! Herewith, Sara, Marisa, Jeremy, Jesse, and Nathaniel talk about their collective favorites.
Continue reading The 20 Best Movies of 2020

The Podcast: Silence of the Lambs at 30 mainstay Sara has a Valentine’s Day tradition: Watch The Silence of the Lambs. Valentine’s Day does happen to be the movie’s anniversary–and in 2021, it turned 30 years young! So the SportsAlcohol crew decided to join in on the ritual (virtually, of course), rewatching Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning (and, yes, somewhat problematic) feminist serial-killer thriller and getting together to talk about that, plus the careers of both Demme and, uh, Lecter. So if you’ve ever wanted to listen to Sara, Jesse, Marisa, Ben, and Jeremy talk about Michael Mann, Brett Ratner, Matthew Modine, the Oscars, message movies, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Thandie Newton in one packed episode, then has done it again! Happy Valentine’s Day to no one! Seriously, though, it’s a good episode.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

  • You can subscribe to our podcast using the rss feed.
  • I’m not sure why they allowed it, but we are on iTunes! If you enjoy what you hear, a positive comment and a rating would be great.
  • I don’t really know what Stitcher is, but we are also on Stitcher.
  • is a proud member of the Aha Radio Network. What is Aha? It’s kind of like Stitcher, but for your car.
  • You can download the mp3 of this episode directly here
  • Our most recent episode or two will sometimes be available on our Soundcloud
  • You can listen to the episode (and a bunch of great songs!) in the players below.

The Podcast: The Films of David Fincher

With David Fincher’s Mank dominating cultural conversation as a Netflix smash (?!?!), we figured: What better time to obsess over America’s most obsessive filmmaker? In another two-part episode, the all-star team of Rob, Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, Jeremy, and Jesse virtually convened to talk about each and every David Fincher film, from the big-budget Alien sequel he disowned to the black-and-white labor of love he made about… screenwriting?! Is Zodiac his only great movie? Does Mank live up to the hype/backlash cycle? Who loves The Game? These are all questions we are well-qualified to answer to the tune of Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, so put on your green filters, start poring over serial killer files, and let’s do it.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The Podcast: The Films of Martin Scorsese

For an episode so long in the works that we decided to make it two episodes, the film buddies decided to take on the filmography of Martin Scorsese. He doesn’t have a new movie out, and probably won’t until 2022, but we’ve been stuck inside for much of the past year, and Scorsese has such a rich (AND VARIED) filmography that it’s always a pleasure to go flipping back through it. Plus, Raging Bull recently turned 40, Goodfellas recently turned 30, and Casino recently turned 25! Scorsese has so many movies, you can find a significant anniversary virtually any year. So while you prep for the upcoming 10th anniversary of Hugo and 15th anniversary of The Departed, why not kick back with our career-spanning retrospective, wherein we have at least some form of discussion about every fiction film Martin Scorsese has ever made! We talk about the gangster ones, the pulp ones, the religious ones, the early ones, the Leo ones, and more! Do not let Jesse have watched Boxcar Bertha in vain!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

TRACK MARKS 2020: “JU$T” by Run the Jewels

Track Marks is a recurring feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them in December and/or January and/or February, looking back at the year in music.

I don’t need to go through the whole rigamarole here about what an absolute dumpster fire 2020 was. We all experienced it; we all read the year-end reviews that rehashed it; we all know. Many of us hoped the start of 2021 would bring at least a bit of a respite. How foolish that seems now. January 6th was just the most recent of days where it felt almost dystopian to be still checking in on work email while the world fell apart before our eyes. At a time when so many are unemployed, facing eviction, scraping together a living, anger often feels like the only legitimate reaction. What, exactly, is the point of clocking in right now when it has never been a guarantee that you would be safe or cared for or valued beyond your ability to produce something commodifiable? That’s where a song like Run the Jewels’ “JU$T” comes in, articulating such volatile emotions with the ecstatically blunt verbosity that has become their trademark.

Since they started working together in 2013, Killer Mike and El-P have built up something of a formula for most Run the Jewels songs, the former trading bombastic rhymes with the skittery energy of the latter. But over the course of their four albums they’ve made brilliant use of a wide variety of collaborators, from Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio to Mavis Staples to Blink-182’s Travis Barker. If your only awareness of Pharrell Williams was his “Happy” song being played on countless Democratic nominee stages, you might have been surprised by his appearance on this track. Certainly it’s a bit more unexpected to hear him sardonically deliver “Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollar” than when Mike and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine take up the refrain. But according to the Song Exploder episode on “JU$T,” the line was Pharrell’s idea. And of course it shouldn’t be a surprise at all. He is a Black man, and no amount of success or wealth shields him from what that means in America.

It all starts with four beats that sounds like a heart revving up before moving with lethal rapidity to verses that mercilessly skewer the capitalistic cycle that forms the backbone of our country and the parasitic ways it works to keep us, especially Black people, at its mercy. “Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food/Get killed and it’s not an anomaly/But hey, it’s just money,” El-P raps, a nod to Eric Garner when it was written but with George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day became a damning indictment of America’s inability to enact any meaningful change. Backed by a choppy chorus of voices both angelic and robotic, like the sort of menacing call waiting tone you’d hear on Judgement Day, it’s an anthem that feels tailor-made for live performance. In any other year, you can imagine a huge crowd at an outdoor concert ironically shouting “Make money!” back at the rappers. In 2020 we had to settle for screaming into the void instead, but at least it was comforting to know that artists were doing it too.

TRACK MARKS 2020: “Animal” by Katie Malco

Track Marks is a recurring feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them in December and/or January and/or February, looking back at the year in music.

In August 2020, I made a promise to myself: I would stop drinking for at least 90 days. It was one of those tests that people who suspect they might have a problem give themselves in the months, or years, before they decide to quit something for good. I made it, and then some, and while I have had a glass of wine at a holiday dinner here and there since, for the most part I’ve cut alcohol out of my life. The decision was and wasn’t related to the pandemic, which forced many of us to confront habits and tendencies that we otherwise might have been happy to avoid indefinitely. In truth it was a long time coming, longer than many of the people close to me probably realized. It also had some inevitable consequences, some of which I expected and some of which were a surprise. For example, I started noticing in ways I hadn’t before how people imbibed, casually or otherwise, in the pop culture I consumed — how the placement of a bottle in a frame can indicate either a detail or a problem, or how the intentions of a song lyric can be twisted depending on our knowledge of the singer’s life.

A lot of artists were confronting addiction issues in 2020, particularly women. Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud explored the often uncomfortable contours of recovery, as did Best Coast’s Everything Has Changed. While the U.K.-based Katie Malco’s debut solo album Failures has the sort of title that connotes struggles with a substance, it’s not explicitly about that. Alcohol is just one of the many coping mechanisms for modern life that are explored with unflinching honesty here. “Animal” is the bracing opening track; after the first fifteen seconds of plaintively searching piano it drops listeners in media res with Malco heedlessly powering her way through an all-night bender: “Thirteen beers and a bad taste in my mouth” are the first words we hear. It mimics the textures of binge drinking in both its lyrics and composition, with guitars that veer from chugging along like the train the singer has found herself on to the jagged shards of memory in the morning-after. According to Malco, “Animal” is based on nights when she stayed out to avoid being at home with her mother’s abusive partner. She cycles through the same story in both verses, not unlike how someone who’s suffered a blackout tries to piece back together what they might have done. It’s strung together with a chorus both defiant and defenseless, with Malco sounding like she can barely catch her breath, raging one moment for the listener to “take those worried eyes off me” and pleading with childlike vulnerability to be carried home in the next. I wish I didn’t recognize myself in those words, but Malco is not judgmental of her younger self, only of those who might judge her. Like many a drunk, the song relents eventually, tapering off with a churning coda like the singer has finally laid down, head heavy with a case of the bends that might never stop.

Looking back now, Malco’s potential breakout year feels more like a dream deferred. Though she’s been the opening act for artists like Jenny Lewis and Julien Baker, missing out on a headlining tour has to hurt, and it means a lot of music fans were deprived of a potential new favorite. I look forward to when concert venues open up again, and hope Malco has the chance to do some gigs in the U.S.; in the meantime, her album is available on Bandcamp.

The Podcast: Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola’s new movie On the Rocks dropped on Apple TV (and a few theaters, apparently), and with a worldwide pandemic still raging, it felt like a good time to stay in and rewatch her other six movies and talk about her 20-year career so far. So that’s just what Marisa, Sara, Jesse, and Jeremy did in a comprehensive conversation, appreciation, and career overview. The gang’s all here: Bill Murray! Kirsten Dunst! Guilded cages! The birth of Josh Hartnett’s dirtbag cool! Amazing soundtrack cues! Anachronisms! The Godfather Part III! A short-lived MTV series! And more! If you love the current Best Coppola’s work as much as we do, you won’t want to miss this one.

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The Podcast: Best Movies of 2020

Usually around this time of year, we do a seasonal episode about the various indie movies of the summer, and then an episode in January about the best movies of the preceding year. But honestly, who the hell knows what the rest of 2020 has in store for us? So this year we’ve decided to just call it off and talk about some of the best movies of 2020 right now, in August. Would Tenet or The New Mutants have made our informal list? Who knows?! And who cares?! We had more than enough good movies to fill a supersized episode anyway, all of which you can currently watch at home without getting covid! Join Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, Jeremy, and Jesse as we console ourselves with cinema!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The Podcast: Albums of 1999 – THE HOT ROCK by Sleater-Kinney

Our belated 20th-anniversary tour of notable 1999 records marches on as Rob, Jesse, and Sara discuss Sleater-Kinney’s change-of-pace record The Hot Rock, in the context of the band’s career and their 2019 change-of-pace record The Center Won’t Hold! What does it mean for Sleater-Kinney to change pace, turn down the guitars, or possibly sell out? LISTEN IN AND FIND OUT!

We are now up to SEVEN (7) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

TRACK MARKS 2019: “Cellophane” by FKA Twigs

Track Marks is a recurring feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. As usual, we’re closing out the year by talking about a bunch of songs that we loved over the past 12 months.

As far as materials with metaphorical possibilities go, cellophane has been more durable than its flimsy texture might suggest. Lest it have faded from your memory since 2002, John C. Reilly’s big number in the film version of Chicago casts him as a sad clown singing of how people “can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there.” But FKA twigs is singing about a different kind of transparency here: the kind that comes with the vulnerability of loving another person, of letting yourself be seen fully, perhaps for the first time.

FKA twigs has had a difficult couple of years. Following a very public breakup with Robert Pattinson, she announced that six fibroid tumors had been discovered in her uterus, forcing her to undergo an invasive surgery. For an artist of such lithe physicality, it must have been devastating, but she rebuilt herself in her typically idiosyncratic way: by learning pole-dancing. Her new skill is on full display in the video for “cellophane,” but she’s equally adept at expressing the song’s muscular intimacy when performing live, as she demonstrated on Jimmy Fallon’s show back in late October.

It’s one of the weirder pairings of artist and venue, which also makes it all the more remarkable to watch unfold. She starts seated on a piano, her voice tiptoeing out towards the audience. You can almost feel her listeners leaning closer, drawn into her singular vortex, the lyrics painting a portrait of a love doomed by the pressures a greedy public has exerted on it. “They want to see us apart,” she sings, the phrase fluttering like something about to be picked up by the wind. And later: “I don’t want to have to share our love.” Just because you asked for the spotlight doesn’t mean it won’t burn you. But she lifts herself up as she goes, both vocally and literally onstage, her great strength lying paradoxically in her defenselessness, inviting us to watch as she symbolically sheds her own skin. “THIS is how you flex on your ex,” says one of the YouTube comments on the performance, and it’s true. If you know they’re going to be watching, better make sure it’s a sight they won’t forget.